Thomas Langan is stranded in Madrid, and his travel agency refuses to fly him back home as promised. Is he entitled to a refund?
Question: I booked a round-trip airline ticket from Chicago to Madrid for a friend’s wedding on Iberia. On my return flight, the airline had my information in the system, but it said my ticket was canceled.
The airline asked me for the e-ticket information to see if they could help me get on the flight. I showed them what I had, but it only covered the flight from Chicago to Madrid. Because of this, they said I needed to work it out with Fare Depot, the booking agent.
I called Fare Depot about once an hour for 14 hours to see if a solution could be reached. Finally, at about 1 a.m., I was able to talk to somebody who could tell me what happened.
The manager I talked to, whose name is Steve, said that their system automatically canceled my return flight, and that it was a mistake of their system. I was never notified of a cancellation.
The immediate solution they offered was, I believe, a 26-hour flight with one stop in Istanbul, with a 10-hour stopover, where there have been numerous terrorist attacks in recent months.
The original return flight was a direct flight from Madrid to Chicago — about 9 hours. This is the flight that I originally purchased, and this is the flight that I felt I should be entitled to, or at least something reasonably close to this.
So I turned down Fare Depot’s offer.
The next direct flight to Chicago with availability was two days later at the same time of day that I had booked originally. Since they were unwilling to offer me this flight back home, they told me I could purchase it and they would “see” if they could offer me a refund. The cost of this flight was about $1,000, while the other one was $650. I didn’t want to be an American traveling alone in a place that had three major terrorist attacks since the beginning of the year.
After I got home, I was contacted almost two weeks later with an offer from them of $170 refund and a $300 flight voucher. This amount reflected half of the original purchase that I had made.
They argued that since I used half of the fare already, they could only refund the half that had not been used, or canceled – again, something that I was never notified of.
After multiple conversations with two managers, they still have not budged from their offer. I have not accepted it, and will not because it is undeniably unfair. As you can imagine, I have been stressed out about this whole thing because not only did I spend $1,000 more than I had planned to, but I missed two days of work as well which cost me about $400.
I would like a refund of my flight home that I paid for as well as compensation for lost wages and extra costs incurred for an extra 2 days stay. Can you please help me get my money back? — Thomas Langan, Chicago
Answer: Fare Depot, your online travel agency, should have contacted you immediately when your return flight was canceled.
When it was clear that you were stuck in Madrid because of a system error Fare Depot admitted to, it should have done everything it could to get you back to Chicago on a comparable flight. It should have also covered any additional lodging expenses.
Fare Depot tries to shield itself from claims like yours, and particularly your last claim for compensation for lost work time, in its terms and conditions:
To the maximum extent permitted by law, neither we nor any of our officers, employees, shareholders or other representatives will be liable in damages or otherwise in connection with your use of or inability to access this web site or the purchase and use of any products and services supplied via this web site.
This limitation of liability applies to all damages of any kind, including compensatory, direct, indirect or consequential damages, loss of data, income or profit, loss of or damage to property, personal injury and claims of third parties.
Ah, but that assumes Fare Depot provided the product it sold you. And it gave you half a product — specifically a ticket from Chicago to Madrid. Then it stranded you in Madrid.
Our advocacy team jumped into action on this case, contacting Fare Depot on your behalf. The agency sweetened its offer to a $200 refund and a $300 flight voucher, which is slightly better, but still not ideal.
You decided to accept the offer and file a case in Illinois small claims court. I hope that persuades Fare Depot to do the right thing. We’ll update this story when we know what happened.